we have a client that sits through all of our meetings together, browsing the internet and watching half-naked girls on motorcycles. (if you’re reading this, don’t worry, no one knows who you are, and I love you like crazy.)
he’s a client, and he’s old enough to be my father. I can’t tell him to stop it with the girls. there’s a certain amount of respect that you have to maintain. and this is a problem.
because for the next few weeks, this client has been calling for a meeting, and I’ve been declining. I didn’t want to waste my time in our meeting while we browsed the net. and this went on for weeks until I couldn’t delay anymore.
so I decided: ‘the heck with it! I’m gonna tell him. the project isn’t moving forward anyways.’ so I call him up, and naturally he asks for a meeting. I hesitate for a second and then say: ‘ok. but on one condition. without Pamela Anderson please.’
I think to myself: ‘oh shit!’
and then I pull enough nerve and say his name.
suddenly I hear a voice: ‘sorry William, I was reading an email. sure thing, no Pamela. you got it, see you tuesday.’
what! he didn’t react? it passed as if I told him to get a file with him? and that’s when I realized that I was being too careful when talking to my customers. could it be that in my head, I exaggerate the tolerance level of other people in getting offended?
I was excited, so I call another customer that has been bothering me, and I talk to him with zero reservations. same reaction: ‘sure William, you got it.’ I call a third: ‘no problem!’ what? no one cares, and I’ve been trying all my life to be careful and not offend people?
I share my realization with hanane, and after great effort, she tries it on 2 occasions with the same results. they don’t care.
and that was one of the biggest lessons that changed my life. in our heads we always exaggerate how sensitive people are to getting offended. and this makes us too careful, to the extent that it breaks communication, and often relationships.
how many times were you talking to someone and knew exactly what he wanted from you, except that he was beating around the bush, afraid to say it as it is. didn’t you feel bad for the person and wished you could tell him: ‘please stop it, I know what you want, and you got it.’
I’ve said that to people, and guess what? they were relieved. don’t let someone feel sorry for you, don’t let yourself feel bad for someone else, and don’t sabotage your relationships; don’t be careful when communicating. say it as it is. let it out.
update: please read the comments for more insights, and for some tackled exceptions and concerns.
p.s. closely related: the destructive power of ‘but you don’t understand!’ and what to use instead? — COM102